Monthly Archives: March 2013

Warning: Under Construction … for the next several years

What is #ETMOOC

Time has flown by once again and #etmooc is coming to an end. When I first started to read the posts and tweets about the course ending, I thought, “Wait, already!? No, not yet!” I couldn’t believe we had reached the last week, which meant it was time for closing thoughts and reflections.

As I began to think back on all of my experiences in #etmooc, an image came to mind of two open palms, held together to provide a foundation and support for this new community. That’s how I imagine #etmooc as the “official” course ends. We are all sitting or standing, talking or creating inside this safe space we have built together for one another. A supportive, affirmative space that’s also open and accepting of so much. It’s a community that’s accepts that people are extraordinarily busy and as much as they might like to learn, they also have busy lives to lead. So there’s no need for apologies when you have to step away for awhile.

It’s also a community that has been built around a few core ideas or topics and deepened by questions and provocations. We have not been afraid to push one another to think differently or more deeply about current issues around forming a digital identity, supporting open source projects and platforms, and numerous other challenging topics. And once these provocations have been raised, there have been numerous questions, wonderings, and curiosities posed to the group to discuss and examine together.

Questions

We have encouraged one another to grow by pursuing new goals and trying new tools. I know I have jumped into GIFs and explored a number of new sites and projects thanks to this course. We have opened each others’ eyes to new resources and provided support to test them out without worrying that we are making mistakes, being silly or sharing things that don’t matter.

And maybe most important, we brought all of these things together by actively and consciously working to build new connections. We strived, as a community, to connect in new places like Google+ or Twitter and we visited each other’s neighborhoods and left comments on other participants’ blogs so that they would know we were listening and waiting for their next contribution. Even though most of us have never met in person and might never be in the same place at the same time, we have established ties that can continue to connect us after this “course” ends. Because the reality is that #etmooc is much more than a course or even a space for dialogue, it is an entire community built upon this foundation we have forged together.

Through our creations, discussions, questions, relationships, tools, technologies, and open sharing we have joined all of our palms together to serve as the foundation for our future constructions. It’s a construction site that is waiting for us to build upon it, to build future collaborations, to engage in shared writings and explorations, and to start new projects to support future good.

Although people are saying their “goodbyes” and we are collecting artifacts in this shared space, these are simply the next layer in our community. I don’t see them as the end but rather the beginning of the next level in this shared space, on this foundation we have built and I don’t think there’s anything stopping us from continuing to build more, if we’re willing.

Of course without the live sessions and blog prompts, it will be more challenging to stay as engaged and other events or projects might occupy more of our time but I think that simply means the ways in which we continue constructing our community might shift. We might build more piecemeal or more slowly or maybe in smaller groups but we’ll still be united by our foundation. I am so happy I had the chance to contribute to the foundation and I can’t wait to put on my digital hard hat and continue building this amazing community with everyone.

Under Construction

Image: “A Hard Hat” by Dwight Burdette is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported 
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Examining Open Education

open lock

We Participate, Therefore We Are. ~ Brown & Adler

This past week, I had the chance to delve deeper into the idea of open education and open education resources (OER) thanks to both #ETMOOC and the #MediaLabCourse.

Before this week, I hadn’t spent much time considering the differences between “open” and “free” and the power they can bring to people around the world when they are combined together. Free is valuable for the accessibility it provides but open, I discovered, means much more than just making something accessible or available to the public. It also means providing transparency and the blueprint for how and even why something was created. This unique insight into how something was made (e.g., a website, a software program), allows users to make the transition from consumers to creators much more easily. Suddenly, the plans behind a product are not only visible but they’re also “unlocked” and available for re-mixing, mashing, and updating so that they can meet the needs of individual contexts and previously unimagined goals.

It’s quite literally like holding the “secret code” in your hands to a door you might never have known existed before and then being able to enter that code in, walk through the door, and start making changes to the entire architecture of a place, program, or site.

Of course, one of the benefits of the open learning movement and the open education community, is that you don’t have to walk through that door alone. It’s similar to the community that has evolved around #ETMOOC when we all walked through the “door” of this free, open course and began to collaborate together. You join a community of other users who have also entered into an open space and who subscribe to a philosophy of open, shared inquiry and peer-to-peer learning. One of the key takeaways from the open educator’s panel and the Open Learning session I watched was the value and power of the community.

These open source communities serve to provide a place for “legitimate peripheral participation” in the words of Brown & Adler, where the process of joining a community “counts” as learning and new students can “engage in ‘learning to be’ even as they are mastering the content of a field.” I find this so exciting and freeing – the idea that you can learn as-you-go without needing to start as an expert, with the expectation that you will fail sometimes, and you can do it among a community of new peers and colleagues who are eager to support your growth.

mozilla open school

One of the best examples I have found to help concretize and demonstrate open learning is the Mozilla project and specifically Thimble. I was excited to see all of the activity happening for Open Education Week including the launch of Mozilla’s Open Badge system. Of course, after I learned about it, I wanted a badge! So I started a Thimble project that I thought connected well with the open theme: Open Webville, which was created by the new School of Open. In the first project, you have a chance to play with the HTML code for a website while also learning about Creative Commons Licenses by adding new text and CC images.

To make my page, I had an opportunity to dive into learning about and researching Creative Commons (CC) licenses and also HTML and CSS code. Although most of the steps involved things I already knew how to do (e.g., use an href tag, find CC images) I loved the ability to click and learn more details about each piece of code and then add my own to add to it. For example from seeing the HTML in my own blog, I had put together that

  • (list item) is used for lists but I never knew that the
      tag above those meant “ordered list.”

remixed animal

Next, I tried out some literal re-mixing of animals to build a site about my fictional endangered species, the Enchidolmel. While making my page, I had the opportunity to re-mix code in a scaffolded environment, learn about new HTML tags and apply the knowledge I had learned/practiced while making my last page. I was also engaged in learning about real endangered species as I created my fictional animal and maybe most important, I was exposed to the idea that I can be a creator and re-mixer of websites. I was shown that I have the power to take code and images and hack them to create something new that makes sense and holds meaning to me and then I can share that with the world!

These are the types of activities that I think are vital for our students to experience. They hit on so many 21st century skills and breakdown barriers to learning, creation, publication, and sharing. I can’t wait to try another Thimble project … and collect some more badgesHave you tried any? Will you introduce this site to your students?